It only opened last year but Heckfield Place – owned by Hong Kong-born American billionaire Gerald Chan, the head of a private equity group – has become a Hampshire haven offering a hotel-farm experience that encourages guests to explore country pursuits, while produce is served plot-to-plate in its restaurants, a concept conceived by culinary director Skye Gyngell.
The restored 18th-century Georgian house, which resides in 400 acres of gardens and orchards complemented by a home farm, has been envisaged not only as a retreat but as a place of learning and, as such, will offer a series of events, talks and workshops (which it calls The Assembly) this summer that can be enjoyed by both guests and non-residents. On Sunday June 16 (from 9am to 11.30am, £25 per person), Maria Verdicchio, a certified forest therapy guide, will take guests on a walk through Heckfield’s ancient woodland. A mindfulness, movement and meditation walk with hypnotherapist and counsellor Anna Lindon is planned on Saturday June 22 (from 11.30am to 1pm, £15 per person), which will be followed on Saturday June 29 by an axe and spoon carving masterclass with lunch under the watchful eye of woodcarver David Pledger (from 10am to 6.30pm, £125 per person).
Come July, guests can partake in botanical painting (Saturday July 6, from 2pm to 4.30pm, £38 per person) under the tutelage of Mary Ellen Taylor, whose love of flora and fauna began in the Galápagos Islands and the Andes before she studied art at the Chelsea Physic Garden in London with Louise Young, a founder member of the exhibiting botanical art group Amicus Botanicus.
In the autumn, Felicity Irons – whose rush woven mats, baskets and headboards decorate Heckfield Place – will instruct guests on how to create their own homewares over tea and cake (Saturday October 5, from 1.30pm to 4:30pm, £95 per person). Iron’s company Rush Matters grows and harvests bulrushes from Bedfordshire’s Great Ouse river, which are used to create traditional matting and accessories.
“Craft, which revives or keeps alive well-honed British traditions, is wholly our narrative,” says Lucy Hyslop, curator of The Assembly. “It is wonderful to see guests getting stuck into some activity they might not have done since school, and become so animated and excited to try the next instalment.”